Consider life can throw curveballs. In 2007, I bought a brand new Honda with my ex, planning to baby it + run it into the ground. We could easily afford it, no interest, and affordable payments.
Long story short: went from well off to losing everything, including the affordable new car, in a couple years.
The now 15 yo used car, I bought for under $3k more than 5 years ago? Mine. Paid for. Yes, it might not pass inspection this year. But if I figure it cost about $700/800 a year to own, insure, and repair? Good start. If I have to replace it, I'm going pre 1995 Volvo (no emissions in my state if that yr or older), if I can find one. Hopefully under a grand, decent body.
I'm not picky though. And I only drive abt 2,000 miles a year, so repairing my beater may also be an option if the numbers make sense.
For the once or twice a year I might truly need a newer car, I can always rent one. Enterprise has a $9.99 a day weekend deal, as an example.